Heated Viber exchange exposes rift between Gayoom brothers

A heated exchange on a social media group set up between MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has been leaked and exposes a widening rift between President Abdulla Yameen and his-half brother and president of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the Viber group, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb reprimanded newly elected Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon for his absence from a vote on a constitutional amendment that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice president.

“Faris you have let down HEP Yameen on the very first vote,” Adeeb told the newly elected MP for Dhiggaru.

adeeb-faris-chat 2

Faris is nephew to President Yameen and the eldest son of former President Gayoom.

Gayoom, is the leader of the PPM, and had opposed the change to set an upper age limit of 65 years. The former president, who is now in his early 80s, had served six terms from 1978 to 2008.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with the 33-year-old tourism minister.

Tensions are reportedly running high within the PPM with Gayoom also unhappy with the vice president’s imminent impeachment.

Adeeb warned Faris against discriminating based on his background: “I have served this party and sacrificed more than any individual and it’s time for a change.”

“If anyone has the strength to confront us, u are all welcome. But this will happen Insha Allah.”

President Yameen was elected on Gayoom’s popularity. But in the past 18 months, he has created his own power base, with hand picked MPs and ministers. His right-hand man is Adeeb.

Several senior PPM officials have confirmed to Minivan News that screenshots of the Viber conversation circulating on social media are authentic.

Faris replied saying that his “only aim is upholding President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government,” but said: “Proper discussion and deliberation cannot be bypassed.”

Adeeb then said “this is definitely not helping this country to take forward, and Faris not coming to vote shows your commitment and those who have elected you.”

Faris had won a by-election for the vacant Dhiggaru seat earlier this month after former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“Sir, I have every commitment and [support] to yourself and to the youth of our country. Especially the educated youth,” Faris told Adeeb.

After parliament voted to accept the amendments for consideration, Gayoom sent a text message to the PPM parliamentary group leader saying: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”

Former PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof has meanwhile called on Gayoom to retract support for his half-brother’s administration.

Opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but the government has denied the rumours of the president’s health.

In a separate message to the PPM parliamentary group – also leaked online – Adeeb spoke of the importance of affording the space for President Yameen ” to rule this nation without internal resistance.”

“This nation needs to be sorted and it needs to give room for HEP Yameen to rule this nation without internal resistance. We need HEP Yameen’s policies to be implemented in this nation and PPM party, there is no nation where President is not the leader of the political party he represents.

“I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions, I think we need to discuss this at party level,” wrote Adeeb.

He signed off as the “Elected VP.” Adeeb is also the vice president of PPM.

Addressing participants of a motorcycle rally yesterday, Adeeb said the country is very “stress free” at the moment and that there was no cause for anyone to worry.

The current administration will govern the nation in a “stress free” manner, he said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed was transferred to house arrest last week based after doctors advised a “stress free environment” and rest for back pain.

The opposition MPs’ backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived as part of a deal in exchange for the opposition leader’s transfer to house arrest.


Parliamentary rules changed to expedite vice president’s impeachment

A parliament sub-committee last night approved changes to the People’s Majlis rules of procedure to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president.

The new rules state the parliament can vote on a no-confidence motion in the vice president without an investigation.

The changes will be put to a vote at tomorrow’s sitting.

The constitution gives the parliament the discretion to establish a select committee to investigate accusations against the president or vice-president.

The parliament’s standing orders currently state that a committee must investigate allegations against the vice president or the president before impeachment. But the pro-government majority on the general affairs committee amended the rules for the impeachment of the vice president. MPs did not change the process of impeaching the president.

The vice president must be given a 14-day notice ahead of the parliamentary debate on the resolution, according to the constitution.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition is seeking to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Jameel left for Sri Lanka last week after President Abdulla Yameen authorised a medical leave. He was due to return last night, but has departed for London without informing the Maldives National Defence Force, which provides security for the vice president.

The vice president’s bodyguards reportedly did not travel with him to the UK, according to local media reports. The MNDF declined to comment on the incident.

PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today that the no-confidence motion is likely to be submitted to parliament tomorrow.

Nihan previously told Minivan News that pro-government MPs are unhappy with Jameel over his alleged failure to defend the government during an opposition mass protest in Malé on May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the historic 20,000-strong march.

Ruling coalition MPs have also publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty.

Some opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but Nihan has dismissed rumors over the president’s health.

PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa and MDA MP Mohamed Ismail have condemned the vice president’s departure on social media.

Musthafa said that the president did not authorise Jameel’s trip while Ismail said the vice president had “fled” the country.

The MP for Hoarafushi – who had submitted the constitutional amendment – said in a Facebook post today that Jameel’s exit lends credence to the allegations against him.

He suggested that Jameel was planning to bring the Maldives into disrepute in interviews with international media outlets.

Last week, the parliament passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to lower the age limit for the presidency from 35 to 30 years. Adeeb is now 33.

A two-third majority or 57 votes will be needed to remove the vice president. The PPM and coalition partner MDA controls 48 seats in the 85-member house and appears to have secured the opposition’s backing.

Five MPs each from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) have signed the no-confidence motion, the PPM has said.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.



Ministerial task force formed to combat dengue outbreak

A ministerial task force was convened today to formulate a national level response to a dengue outbreak across the Maldives.

An 18-year-old pregnant Maldivian woman and a migrant worker died of dengue fever in the past week while the Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned of an increase in the incidence of the mosquito-borne disease.

The government began mosquito fogging in Malé and the atolls this morning.

Some 374 cases of dengue has been reported so far this year, of which 125 were reported from Malé and 112 were reported in June.

Health minister Iruthisham Adam, home minister Umar Naseer, and defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel attended the high-level meeting today along with a number of senior government officials, police officers, and officials from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

The health minister said mosquito fogging will take place in the capital and affected atolls for the next seven days. The ministry is also cleaning out mosquito breeding sites in collaboration with the housing ministry, environment ministry, home ministry, and the security services.

Last year, the health ministry said dengue fever has become endemic in the Maldives since 2004 with annual outbreaks.

A relatively severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high 12 fatalities.

A total of 1,083 dengue cases were reported in the Maldives in 2012. The HPA has previously said that construction workers face an increased risk.


UN urged to condemn guideline for human rights watchdog

A New Delhi-based human rights NGO has called upon the UN human rights council to condemn a Maldives Supreme Court judgment barring the human rights watchdog from communicating with foreign organisations without government oversight.

In a letter to the council’s president Joachim Rücker, the Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) urged the UN to “take measures to rescind” the apex court’s judgment and to ensure accountability by “bringing the perpetrators, i.e. judges of the Supreme Court who initiated the suo moto proceedings against the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to, justice.”

The court’s ruling on June 16 found a human rights assessment submitted by the watchdog to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the HRCM should operate within the law.

The ACHR warned that the “act of reprisal” against the HRCM for “cooperating with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is unheard of and will set dangerous precedent across the world” if the UN human rights council fails to condemn it.

The 11-point guideline states that the HRCM must protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms, faith, etiquette and the rule of law.

The Supreme Court also said that the HRCM must not overstep its mandate, while ordering the independent body to cooperate with government institutions, communicate with foreign bodies through the relevant government institutions, and protect the Maldives’ reputation.

The verdict “has the potential to frighten the national human rights institutions and encourage dictatorial regimes across the world to take such repressive measures to prohibit cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms,” read the ACHR’s letter.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the United Nations bodies and mechanisms.

In its submission to the UN Universal Period Review, the HRCM said the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the lower courts to the detriment of the Maldivian judiciary.

Days after the report was publicised, the Supreme Court brought charges against the HRCM members under controversial suo moto regulations that allow the apex court to prosecute and pass judgment.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said the September 2014 report by the HRCM was biased and undermined judicial independence in the Maldives.

The HRCM’s submission to the UPR was based on reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul.

The apex court said it had previously rejected Knaul’s report as invalid and reprimanded the HRCM for its alleged failure to consult the Supreme Court in writing the UPR submission.

The government has meanwhile defended the court’s judgment, insisting that the court’s decision “clearly stresses” the commission’s independence.

The foreign ministry said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”


Blair’s Omnia accused of lying over Maldives contract

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused Omnia Strategy of lying over its role in advising President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

The UK-based law firm owned by Cherie Blair, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, had said its work was limited to assisting the government in strengthening democracy.

But the foreign ministry revealed yesterday that Omnia Strategy was assisting the government in preparing a response to a petition filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed at the UN working group on arbitrary detention. The company’s fees will be revealed when its work is complete, the foreign minister has said.

The opposition leader’s international legal team is seeking a judgement declaring his imprisonment on terrorism charges arbitrary and unlawful.

The government has been asked to respond before the first week of July.

The MDP, in a statement yesterday, said that the contract with the law firm is “thought to be worth of millions of dollars” and noted Omnia had previously said it would not become involved in domestic politics.

“But today, Omnia lawyer Toby Cadman appeared at a press conference in Malé alongside foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, where he revealed Omnia’s actual work involved responding to the claim submitted by President Nasheed to the UN working group on arbitrary detention,” the MDP said.

Cadman, a partner at the law firm, “made a robust defense of Nasheed’s jailing, and even suggested that his 13-year sentence should have been a life sentence.”

The MDP said Cadman’s claim that Nasheed was guaranteed the right to legal counsel during his 19-day terrorism trial was “a shameless and brazen departure from the truth”.

MDP international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor called Omnia Strategy “the very worst kind of mercenary outfit.”

“They are taking possibly millions of dollars in exchange for helping a dictatorship keep a democracy hero in jail,” he said.

“Blair and Cadman should be utterly ashamed of themselves. They are no friends of the Maldives.”

Speaking to the press yesterday, Cadman said due process was followed in Nasheed’s trial and that the government has prepared its defence.

The former president was sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

“If the offence had occurred in the United Kingdom the former President could have been charged with an offence of kidnapping or false imprisonment, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” said Cadman.

“Throughout the legal proceedings against former President Nasheed, his constitutional right to effective legal representation has been guaranteed and when his legal representatives boycotted the proceedings, the former president was repeatedly reminded of his right to alternative legal representation”.

Cadman also said that Nasheed was not kept in solitary confinement, but was “detained in a facility that would not only meet international best practices, but arguably far exceed any acceptable level.”

Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges after a 19-day trial was widely criticised over apparent lack of due process. International pressure on the government to release the former president and other “political prisoners” have been mounting in recent weeks.

The European parliament and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

Briefing the press in Washington DC after filing the petition in late April, Nasheed’s lawyer Amal Clooney said the terrorism trial violated due process and compromised the basic guarantee of presumption of innocence.

Amal said that the court had said that there was no need to call for defence witnesses because such witnesses “would not be able to refute the evidence submitted by the prosecution”.

“This tells you everything you need to know about the process. Because why call a defense witness, if you already know that the verdict is going to be guilty,” she said.

Following the government’s announcement that it has enlisted Omnia Strategy earlier this month, Nasheed’s MDP expressed “disgust” with the law firm’s decision to represent President Yameen’s administration.

The MDP said at the time that the current administration “appears to have hired the most unethical and profiteering mercenaries money can buy.”

The former UK Attorney General Baroness Scotland, who sits on Omnia’s advisory council, was paid £125,000 for two weeks’ work in 2012, advising Mohamed Waheed Hassan, Nasheed’s deputy who had ousted him earlier that year.